The Isaiah Apocalypse

In a previous post I gave a broad subdivision to the book of Isaiah. The book itself can be divided into three parts: First Isaiah (Isaiah 1-39), Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55), and Third Isaiah (Isaiah 56-66). In the centre of First Isaiah are chapters that are often referred to as the “Isaiah Apocalypse” (Isaiah 24-27). They are so called because, in contrast to much of the surrounding material, they seem to break into the eternal future.

Isaiah 24:1-20 introduces this section with cataclysmic judgment. This is the much talked about Day of the LORD. On this day, everyone will be called to give an account of their life. No one escapes (Isaiah 24:1-3). The earth is cursed (Isaiah 24:4-6), people suffer and mourn for themselves as all joy disappears from one-time revelers (Isaiah 24:7-13). Yet, for the redeemed of all nations, this day of tumolt is a time for celebration, joy, and worship, even while there is grief for the unrepentant (Isaiah 24:14-16). Finally, like a new Noah, the prophet warns of the surety of the impending judgment to come (Isaiah 24:17-20).

The rest of these chapters can be divided into seven sub-sections by looking for the textual marker, “In that day…”

One: “On that day…” God will punish and imprison the host of heaven (demons) and the unrepentant kings of the earth (Isaiah 24:21-23).

Two: “On that day…” God will host a banquet for all the redeemed on mount Zion. At that feast, God will swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:6-9). While the redeemed are reclining with the Lord, the unrepentant (represented here by Moab) will be cast down and condemned (Isaiah 25:10-12).

Three: “In that day…” God will be worshipped by all the resurrected saints in the land of Judah (Isaiah 26:1). The anthem that will be sung is written in anticipation, reminding those gathered of all that God has accomplished on their behalf. The culminating victory shall be our resurrection from the dead (Isaiah 26:19).

Four: “In that day…” God will deal the final death blow to Satan, here named Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, the dragon that is in the sea (Isaiah 27:1).

Five: “In that day…” God will replant His vineyard. This vineyard is the resurrected people of God living in the glorified Creation. There will never again be pain and toil on account of the sin of humanity, for God will have spent all His wrath and the curse will be over. We are, here, on the other side of judgment (Isaiah 27:2-6)!

Six: “In that day…” God will gather all of True Israel from within the Promised Land (Isaiah 27:12).

Seven: “In that day…” God will gather all of  True Israel from every corner of the earth (Isaiah 27:13).

These are remarkable chapters, which help us to understand the intention for all that surrounds them. The recounting of the reigns of Ahaz (Isaiah 7-12) and Hezekiah (Isaiah 36-39), as well as the oracles against the nations (Isaiah 13-23) and the woes against Ephraim and Jerusalem (Isaiah 28-33), and even the summations of God’s judgment (Isaiah 34) and promised salvation (Isaiah 35) all find their deepest meaning in the shadow of the “Isaiah Apocalypse.” More will be said about all of this in future posts.

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